The Chairs
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by David Allen

Aurora Theatre in Berkeley takes a turn toward the absurd with its latest production of Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs. It’s a play about an old couple who have made nothing of their lives and subsequently nothing really happens in this play except in the imagination of its two principle characters played by Barbara Oliver and Gerald Hiken.

Their performances alone are worth the price of admission even if you can’t figure out what the play is all about, and when it comes to theatre of the absurd, you’re one step ahead of the game if you can’t figure things out. According to Ionesco: “At certain moments the world seems to me to be devoid of meaning, and reality seems unreal. It is this feeling of the unreal, the search for an essential reality, forgotten and nameless – apart from which I do not feel that I exist – that I have tried to express through these characters of mine who wander about inarticulately, having nothing of their own aside from their anguish, their remorse, their failures, the emptiness of their lives. Being submerged in the meaningless cannot be other than grotesque; their tragedy can only excite laughter. Since I find the world incomprehensible, I am waiting for someone to explain it to me.”

The essence of the theatre of the absurd movement is the meaninglessness of life bringing you to the point where the only way to survive is to laugh, or as Ionesco put it, “we laugh so as not to cry.” This line of literary thought goes hand and hand with existentialism, and both movements were largely influenced by the devastation of WWI and WWII.

But the best thing about absurd drama is the wide range of entertaining interpretations that can be made by the director and actors, and Aurora Theatre won’t disappoint you. For tickets or more information call (510) 843-4822 or visit

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